Large Hadron Collider


Large Hadron Collider.  The LHC was recently completed at a cost of several billions of dollars and is located near Geneva, Switzerland.   Colliders of this size and complexity are built by governments since the cost is so high that private institutions cannot afford them.  The LHC will study the physics which existed between .1 and 1 microsecond after the Big Bang.  A Collider of this magnitude was being constructed in the US (Texas) in the 80’s but was cancelled by Congress.  This collider was know as the SuperConducting Collider (SCC) and would have been 3 times the size of the LHC.  Congress cancelled funding for the SCC due to cost overruns of 100%  ($11 Billion versus an original estimate of $6 Billion).  Cutting edge physics will now be done in Europe….a further erosion of our technology lead!

A Collider is an energy particle accelerator.  In layman’s terms the Collider accelerates particles close to the speed of light and and causes a head-on collision in which matter is destroyed, energy created, and new matter in the form of elementary particles is created from energy.  The collisions result in temperatures of trillions of degrees.  Essentially recreating the conditions which scientists believe existed during the Big Bang.  This is cutting edge physics…..

While the LHC may now be the world’s highest energy particle accelerator at energies of 1,000,000 GeV, the US has the 2nd largest Collider…the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider RHIC, known as “rick”. The RHIC was completed in 2001 at the Brookhaven Laboratory on Long Island and can attain energies up to 20,000 GeV.  Prior to the RHIC, the largest Collider was the SPS also at Geneva.  The SPS was capable of energies as high as 450 GeV.  It is still in use today, as the last link in the accelerator chain providing beams for the LHC.